Futon Daiko: Japanese Portable Shrines

by | May 10, 2019 |

Futon daiko is the word in Japanese for the kind of portable shrine pictured in the title image. Last week there was a futon daiko festival in Akashi, a town a good hour or more west of Osaka. My son, Gerard, is somewhere in the title image, but I can’t tell you where.

futon = bed; taiko = a kind of drum (phonetic note: when taiko is combined with another word, it becomes daiko)

Another example:

futon daiko

Futon Daiko: Shinto Shrine Committee Meeting #1

So, just how did that first shrine committee meeting go, way, way, way back when?

A: “We have a god that we need to take out for a spin around town on occasion, right? Well, I have an idea. Let’s carry him on a bed.”

B: “Great, but, seeing that he’s a god, we need two, no, three beds.”

C: “Three beds, good. Okay, the people have to know when we’re coming, so we’ll need a drum.”

D: “Easy. Build a box. Put the drum inside. Put the beds on top.”

B: “Good thinking. Of course, we’ll need to decorate it.”

C: “Really decorate it. Give the thing some heft, too. Make it 500 pounds. Carry it around on poles.”

B: “Nah, make it a thousand pounds, at least. Maybe more. Up to two thousand, I’d say. We’ll use thick poles.”

A: “What are we going to call it?”

Thoughtful silence. Then D perks up. “Let’s call it Bed Drum.”

They all clap their hands once in approval and get to work.

Futon Daiko: Variations

These guys decided one big huge bed was the way to go:

futon daiko

How about blue?

futon daiko

Futon Daiko: Shinto Shrine Committee Meeting #2

A: “Loving the look of Bed Drum.”

B: “Me, too, but I don’t think we should carry a god around in it. We need something even fancier for a god.”

C: “I agree, but let’s table that discussion for later. For now it’s enough to have someone inside the box beating the drum.”

D: “Well, there could also be a couple of guys on either side of it, maybe dancing.”

Enthusiastic approval.

Sneak peek:

futon daiko

A: “Also, the guys – and we need forty of them – all have to be wearing the same thing. Whatever is traditional in their town.”

(Where is this town, exactly? JTA)

Futon Daiko: Shinto Shrine Committee Meeting #3

A: “Bed Drum is a hit. All the shrines in the area have one.”

B: “They’re all looking pretty good, too, and getting out in the street from time to time.”

C: “Yeah, doing their job of … uh, what is their job?”

Consternated silence. D pipes up, “Whatever they’re doing, they look great doing it.”

A: “So great that we should get a bunch of them together. Have a festival.”

B: “Twenty Bed Drums together would be awesome. Make a procession.”

C: “Fine idea. They’ll start in a staging area then proceed to an open field for an exhibition.”

C: “We’ll need someone to keep it organized and moving along.”

D: “No problem. Butterfly Guy fits the bill.”

A: “Perfect. So, we’ll put four Bed Drums out in the field at once and have the teams display their strength.”

B: “How long should they go at it?”

C: “Fifteen minutes?”

D: “Twenty, at least. Thirty, tops.”

A: “That’s settled, then. Meeting adjourned.”

Here is Gerard after the performance of Akashi’s Prince (Ogi) Shrine. He is very happy because that darned thing is heavy – and they carried it for about twenty-five minutes!

Note: his shoes are called tabi.

See also: Japan Archives


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This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen

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